When released next month, the Lexus LS 600hL will be equipped with a group of technologies, collectively dubbed the Driver Monitoring System, that takes automotive safety to an entirely new level.
From the Lexus press release:
The system uses an algorithm to map the position of the driver’s facial features and monitors movement of the driver’s head. A CCD (charge-coupled device) camera is mounted on top of the steering column with six built-in near-infrared LED’s which allow the system to work accurately both day and night.
When the vehicle is started up, the system automatically plots the position of the driver’s facial features – eyes, nose and mouth – and measures the width and centre line of the face. If the driver’s head is turned away from the road at an angle of more than 15 degrees when the vehicle is moving and an obstacle is detected ahead, the system automatically activates the Pre- Crash warning buzzer and briefly applies the brakes to warn of the danger.
If this still fails to prompt action from the driver, the PCS engages emergency braking preparation and pre-tensioning of the front seatbelts.
These systems will be fitted as standard on the LS 600h and LS 600h L (long wheel base) as well as the LS 460, launched earlier this year.
Also included is a rear pre-crash sensor which, should a collision come from behind, activates a safety system built into the front headrests, extending outward to cushion and prevent whiplash injuries (graphic above displays the system in action).
The CCD camera, also pictured above, is a minute sensor, hardly noticeable in fact, but could potentially have a very large impact on LS 600hL drivers. This technology vaults the hybrid flagship into rather controversial territory, where a car’s computers can affect real, unexpected change in areas which had, until now, been the sole responsibility of the driver.
It has to be supposed that the system is failproof, that the computer’s decisions will be 100% correct, that at no point could this system actually cause a crash itself. The technology, “tested with more than 100 drivers, covering a total of more than 60,000 miles” surely showed no signs of failure, otherwise it would have never been put into production.
All in all, it’s an amazing feature, and will without doubt save lives and prevent injuries, but it raises an important question, just how far will car companies go to protect us from ourselves?